Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore, 81, Precursor of Rap

There is a website, of course. And an "official" one, as well.

Mr. Moore called himself the Godfather of Rap because of the number of hip-hop artists who used snippets of his recordings in theirs, performed with him or imitated him. These included Dr. Dre, Big Daddy Kane and 2 Live Crew.

Snoop Dogg thanked Mr. Moore in liner notes to the 2006 release of the soundtrack to Mr. Moore’s 1975 film, “Dolemite,” saying, “Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that’s for real.”

While very little of his work reached mainstream audiences, some knew of his work. Snoop did.

Mr. Moore could be said to represent a profound strand of African-American folk art. One of his standard stories concerns a monkey who uses his wiles and an accommodating elephant to fool a lion. The tale, which originated in West Africa, became a basis for an influential study by the Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., “The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism.”

Hewlett-Woodmere Library owns the book.

In one of his few brushes with a national audience, Mr. Moore, in a startlingly cleaned-up version, told the story on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the early 1990s. Other characters he described were new, almost always dirtier renderings in the tradition of trickster stories represented by Brer Rabbit and the cunning slave John, who outwitted his master to win freedom.

Rudy Ray Moore as the title character in “Dolemite” (1975), a cult classic among aficionados of blaxploitation movies.

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